Executive Intelligence Review


Mattis in Kabul To Seek ‘Political Reconciliation’ between Taliban and Afghan Government

March 13, 2018 (EIRNS)—Arriving unannounced in Kabul today, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said the United States is picking up signs of interest from Taliban elements in exploring the possibility of talks with the government of Afghanistan in order to end the more than 16-year-old war. AP quoted him, “We do look toward a victory in Afghanistan,” continuing, “Not a military victory—the victory will be a political reconciliation” with the Taliban. Incidentally, Mattis’ proposal, although a long way from making any headway, matches that of both Iran and Russia, which have been promoting participation of the Taliban in administering the country.

Washington’s apparent policy shift after 16 years, from a military victory to a political reconciliation with the Taliban, came two weeks after President Ashraf Ghani, in an international conference in Kabul on Feb. 28, had offered the Taliban a similar proposal that called for a “ceasefire,” the recognition of the Taliban as a political party, confidence-building measures, and free and fair elections. Officially, the Taliban have not responded to that proposal and violent incidents continue.

Nonetheless, there are reasons why Ghani and Mattis have made public this new policy. To begin with, ground conditions suggest that the Taliban cannot be defeated but, at the same time, the Taliban are too fragmented to have control of all of Afghanistan, particularly the urban centers. And one of the major Taliban factions which controls the Helmand-Kandahar region (that includes opium/heroin as well) and identified as the Mansour faction, has virtually broken away from the Taliban leader Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada.

Of equal importance is the increasing evidence that small groups operating under disgruntled former Taliban field commanders have begun to join the Afghan ISIS (called the Islamic State Khorasan Province, or ISKP). It is feared that as the inability of achieve a total Taliban victory becomes clearer, many of the Taliban fighters will join the ISKP bringing in international jihadis for a takeover of Afghanistan.